EDITOR'S NOTE: True Tales from Thurman Field is the blog updated by Brian VanderBeek each time he staffs a Modesto Nuts game. The entire backlog of 44 entries can be found at thehive.modbee.com/thurman, but here are some excerpts from recent posts.
A swing and a commissioner
Bud Selig knowingly lied to the world when he said he didn't know baseball had a problem with performance-enhancing drugs until 1998, and has spent the last decade trying to window-dress baseball's complete failure to police its own clubhouses.
Thursday's announcement that blood-based testing for HGH would start in the minor leagues is yet another meaningless and hollow gesture meant only to boost the perception that baseball somehow cares more than other sports about PEDs.
As of Thursday, Selig now can boast that baseball was the first major sport to institute HGH testing. At best, that's a half-truth, and here's why.
1. Major leaguers aren't being tested. The claim is that testing will start at the minor leagues so that the players can get used to the blood-based tests by the time they reach the major leagues. The inference here is that MLB players soon will allow more rigorous testing to show up in the collective bargaining agreement. Good luck there, Bud. To be fair, the Major League Baseball Players' Association is equally to blame for the slow acceptance of testing measures.
2. They're testing the wrong players. All major research into the naturally-produced regulator, produced by the pituitary gland, indicates that HGH levels are highest in males at puberty and start to decrease by about 15 percent per decade after age 21. Research shows that unless you're naturally deficient in HGH, there's no reason to attempt to boost HGH levels by artificial means until well after age 30. Not many minor leaguers (who can be tested because they're not covered by the CBA) are that old. The current 25-man active roster of the Nuts contains only one player as old as 26.
3. It would be counter-productive for minor leaguers to use HGH-boosters. Again, unless there's a natural deficiency, there is no plausible reason for athletes of minor-league age to even think about HGH. Studies have shown that once artificial HGH-boosters are entered into the system, it signals the pituitary gland to stop producing the natural substance. So taking the booster, while causing a brief spike in HGH levels, would not raise the levels for a significant amount of time and would cause lowered levels soon after, causing an effect opposite of the intent.
So, Bud, if HGH testing is written into the major league CBA within two years to screen the only baseball players age-appropriate to the advantages of HGH use, then congratulations -- you indeed have taken a major step toward establishing a level playing field as far as PEDs are concerned.
Until then, don't waste our time with hollow gestures.
Root, root, root for which team?
Congratulations are in order for the Inland Empire 66ers, who pulled out a 4-1 victory Thursday night over Lake Elsinore.
What's the big deal?
Well, the victory allowed the 66ers to win the three-game series, 2 games to 1. Mark the date in history: July 22 -- the date Inland Empire won its first home series of the 2010 season.
I've written quite a bit about Modesto's inability to defend its home turf and even asked players and coaches why the Nuts haven't been able to muster better than a 20-28 record this season at John Thurman Field heading into Saturday's game.
No one has any real answers, or even any solid theories, as to why the Nuts have yet to blossom at home. And more so, there are few ways to explain why so-so play at home has been a league-wide phenomenon.
Modesto's home record is the worst in the North Division, but even first-half champion San Jose is only 24-24 at home and the division overall was 132-121 (.522) entering Friday night. It's a winning record, but hardly anything to, well, write home about. North teams are 128-119 (.518) on the road.